My lightbulb moment: Healthy food guru Stephanie Johnson, reveals the inspiration behind her plant-based food company
- Stephanie Johnson, 32, who lives in London, co-founded Pollen + Grace in 2015
- She revealed her inspiration came from discovering she had food intolerance
- Pollen + Grace now sells 16 plant-based products in retailers including Ocado
I was working in event management in 2014 when I discovered I was intolerant to wheat, gluten and dairy. I’d originally trained as a chef with a background in fine dining, so it hit me pretty hard. All the foods I loved (French cuisine, bread, butter, etc) were off the menu.
My eating out or on-the-go options were suddenly limited. So I began experimenting with healthy yet exciting meals, using ingredients such as quinoa, chia seeds and superfoods, which I took into work.
Stephanie Johnson, 32, (pictured) who lives in London, revealed the inspiration behind her plant-based food company Pollen + Grace
This sparked the interest of my colleagues who asked if I could make them lunch, too. I realised there was a gap in the market.
I gave up my job on the Friday and, on the Monday, started making lunch boxes and juices at home with the help of my mum, delivering them to nearby offices.
My fiance told me to call my now business partner Kristina, who had previously worked with me in the events company. I said: ‘Why would she want to get involved with a highly risky start-up, where she’s going to get paid nothing?’ But, luckily, she said yes.
At the beginning we just had a bike, a website and our home kitchen. We started delivering to local yoga studios and that’s how our first retail range started.
Our vision was to make it easy and exciting to eat well. One of our bestsellers is still the Abundance Box (beetroot quinoa, sweet potato hummus, cabbage slaw, pomegranate jewels and tahini dressing).
Box fresh: pollenandgrace.com
In 2016, we were stocked in Planet Organic; we just sent them an email. Then came Harrods, Self-ridges and Whole Foods. In 2018, we started working with Ocado.
Today, we have a 30-strong female-led team, and a naturopathic nutritionist works with our team of chefs. We sell 16 plant-based products spanning breakfast pots, lunch boxes and snack bars which are free from wheat, gluten, dairy and refined sugars.
Lockdown was hugely busy as we started home-delivery again. Families home-schooling ordered our breakfast and lunch five-day bundle. We also donated more than 4,500 nutritious meals to 31 hospitals and GP practices.
Our fresh products are prepared by hand with no preservatives. Pollen + Grace was born out of a passion for real, honest food and that is more important than ever.